Watchdog launches inquiry into CPS

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The Independent Online

An investigation into race discrimination at the Crown Prosecution Service is to be carried out, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) announced last night.

An investigation into race discrimination at the Crown Prosecution Service is to be carried out, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) announced last night.

The unusual step, by the Government's race watchdog, follows a succession of complaints by CPS staff who claim they have been subjected to racial harassment and victimisation. This summer, the CPS lost two industrial tribunal cases involving senior Asian crown prosecutors who alleged they suffered discrimination.

The CRE said that the Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, had failed to give assurances that the problems were being addressed despite a year of negotiations. The CRE said its officials would go into CPS offices next month to carry out the formal investigation under powers in the Race Relations Act.

It is only the fourth occasion that the CRE has used such powers in the last five years. The subjects of the previous inquiries have been the Household Cavalry, which led to an overhaul of equal opportunities within the armed forces, the London Borough of Hackney and a computer company.

Bob Purkiss, the chairman of the CRE's legal committee, said: "We have tried to work with this organisation in partnership and come up with a plan that would change and drive things forward but we are not satisfied that there is a commitment and understanding at the top to drive that through."

Mark Addison, chief executive of the CPS, admitted last night that the organisation was having problems with recruitment and retention of ethnic minority staff and conceded "there is a lot that we need to change and improve".

He said: "It is important to remember that we are in substantial agreement with the CRE about what needs to be done. We differ about the time-tables. We have done a great deal over the last year and if you look at the proportion of ethnic minority staff at senior levels they are beginning to creep up."